There is nothing that Esme Johnstone and David Campbell of FromVineyardsDirect.com don’t know about Bordeaux. Their contacts there are legendary and they put them to good use in quietly snapping up the surplus production or the wine that doesn’t quite fit the final blend of the Grands Vins from some of the region’s finest châteaux.
These ‘defrocked’ clarets (and one Sauternes) are made using fruit from the relevant château itself, with the same care and attention that goes into the Grands Vins, by the same winemaking teams, and they allow canny wine lovers the chance to enjoy a bit of Bordelais stardust at the fraction of the usual price.
I reckon the 2010 St. Julien (1), from one of the commune’s ‘Super Seconds’, noted for its well draining, beautiful pebbles, is about as good a claret as you can get for less than 20 quid (the Grand Vin sells for around £165). It’s a traditional red bordeaux: concentrated and intense with dark, dark fruit, whiffs of cedar and cigar and a classic firm finish. £19.95.
The 2011 St. Emilion (2) is soft, plummy, juicy and arms-wide-open-welcoming. The tip-top estate from whence it comes had a tricky Cabernet Franc crop in 2011 and needed what little it harvested for the main wine. This wine is perforce 100% Merlot and deeply, joyously accessible as a result. It’s a real beauty, almost Lipizzaner-like in its elegance and power and just £17.25.
The 2011 St. Estephe (3) is from a famous Third Growth and one close to the heart of many a Bordeaux lover. Although firmly structured, there is plenty of appealing, upfront, dark stone fruit on the palate and a long, long finish. It’ll be perfect come next Christmas. £17.95.
The 2012 Pauillac (4) was snapped up when we offered it earlier this year and I expect the same to happen this time too. It was only bottled three months or so ago but it’s full of silky smooth elegance and élan and, as befits a wine from Pauillac’s greatest First Growth (whose Grand Vin sells for almost £400 a bottle), it has a glorious future ahead of it. £20.95.
The 2010 Graves (5) is the bargain of the bunch at just £10.95 a bottle. It’s a great example of the commune, being earthy, spicy, concentrated and robust. It is also deeply pukka, coming as it does from the estate of winemaker extraordinaire, Denis Dubordieu, professor of oenology at Bordeaux University and consultant to – among others – Châteaux Cheval Blanc and d’Yquem. As with the other reds, it is great now but will keep.
Finally, in the 2010 Haut Charmes (6) we’ve a fabulous sweet wine from the most famous vineyards in Sauternes. OK, so it’s not as concentrated, complex or unctuous as the Grand Vin, but its pedigree is impeccable and it’s utterly delicious, honeyed and delicate. The estate doesn’t make a so-called second wine, so I guess you could say this was it. Not bad for just £15.95 a half bottle (the 2010 Grand Vin is nearer £170).
But don’t just take my word for it. If you’re free on Tuesday 11 November join me and the Spectator team at Conrad St. James London in SW1 and you can try before you buy. All the above wines, along with those to be offered in the Wine Vaults of 22 November 2014 will be available to taste.
All prices are correct at time of publication, but we may alter prices at any time for any reason.
To view all other offers, visit new.spectator.co.uk/wine-club.